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Tag Archives: Mark Nepo

Joining the Circus

Yesterday, this poem by Mark Nepo found me. I was checking some emails and a site I subscribe to had this poem on it.

For the first time in 30 years, I will not teach and/or learn in formal way this fall. It crept up on me. Yes, I want to teach. I prefer that to joining a circus. In a sense, I am joining the circus. The theme of the poem is how to deal with ups and downs in life. I applied at several universities and received one interview, but came up short.

My challenge is what will we I do in lieu of teaching in some conventional way? As Nepo says, I ready to kiss anything as I hover like a mystical molecule between one stage and another. Like the dozen beginners, I am learning how to juggle and have to begin somewhere.

Each day, I focus on reading and writing and hope to publish in academic journals.  A colleague suggested I write and shed a different light on teaching. As well, I may take some of my poetry and bundle it together in a book. Perhaps, my smile will be so magical I will asked to teach something I did not expect.

I just saw a handwritten note from

Galileo. He was under house arrest

for believing we’re not the center of

everything. Now behind me, in the park,

a dozen beginners, of all ages, learning how

to juggle. We have to start somewhere. The

young man who’s so magical at this is asked

to instruct. He smiles, “You have to keep

trying. Just not the same thing.” Earlier,

I leaned over a letter from Lincoln to a

dead soldier’s mother. This, just weeks

after losing Susan’s mother, sweet

Eleanor. I keep saying her name to

strangers. You see, we all have to

juggle joy and sorrow. Not to do it

well—we always drop something—but

when the up and down of life are

leaving one hand and not yet land-

ing in the other, then we glow, like

a mystical molecule hovering between

birth and death, ready to kiss anything.

 

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Behind the Thunder

Mark Nepo is well-known for spiritual prose, but he writes very good poetry.

In this wonderful poem, he reminds me I am looking in the wrong place for the teacher. The teaching is in what is in the environment at a given time and in a given context. Am I willing and able to open up to what is taught? Do I sit in silence and listen to the world as it speaks in me?

I must not be swept away by the environment and my emotions. When I am mindful and present, I am aware of both gifts and dangers. I watch for what is behind the thunder internally and externally.

I keep looking for one more teacher,
only to find that fish learn from water
and birds learn from sky.

If you want to learn about the sea,
it helps to be at sea.
If you want to learn about compassion,
it helps to be in love.
If you want to learn about healing,
it helps to know of suffering.

The strong live in the storm
without worshiping the storm.

Coming Out

I spent a good part of the day reading Taoist material, namely the Chuang-Tzu. Eastern philosophy and its teaching are mostly about being rather doing. It is about being mindful, attentive, and being part of the larger whole and not outside. A quote I came across was “People cannot use flowing water for a mirror; they use still water for a mirror.”

Mark Nepo captured the need to be and allow ourselves to become one with the world in this poem. In unity, we find wholeness and come out in the world.

While there is much to do

we are not here to do.

Under the want to problem-solve

is the need to being solve.

Often, with full being

the problem goes away.

The seed being-solves its

darkness by blossoming.

The hear being-solves its loneliness

by loving whatever it meets.

The tea becoming-solves the water

by becoming tea.

What Ties Me to the Earth Is Unseen

This was a busy day. We head out for the evening shortly to spend time with friends. We ran around to get ourselves organized a good part of the day.

Mark Nepo wrote this lovely poem which is a reminder of the need to slow down and find the silent space of sabbath. The lake offers me a place to light down similar to the heron and find the quiet needed to rejuvenate the spirit. This quiet finds its way into my life without a full awareness sometimes. It just appears and I embrace it as it helps me weave my life together.

My heart was beating like a heron awakened

in the woods, no room to move. Tangled

and surprised by the noise of my mind,

I fluttered without grace to the center

of the lake which humans call silence.

I guess, if you would ask, peace

is no more than the underside

of tired wings resting on the lake

while the heart in its feathers

pounds softer and softer.

Accepting This

When Kathy and I decided I would teach one more year, I wanted to make it the best year possible. I tired last year, was in physical pain, and it was difficult to be there for students as I wanted. I examined my life as Socrates suggested. I realized I focused on things I had little or no control over which is unlike me. I knew I wanted this year to be different and I worked hard the first 1/2 of the year in that respect. I remind myself I can only do what I am capable of doing. I stopped planning and organizing that which is not plannable or organizable and take a breath now and then. I choose to accept my life as it unfolds and as I author it in this moment. I owe this to the students and their families who support them and me.

Mark Nepo reminded me today of this as I read this beautiful poem.

Yes, it is true. I confess,
I have thought great thoughts,
and sung great songs—all of it
rehearsal for the majesty
of being held.

The dream is awakened
when thinking I love you
and life begins
when saying I love you
and joy moves like blood
when embracing others with love.

My efforts now turn
from trying to outrun suffering
to accepting love wherever
I can find it.

Stripped of causes and plans
and things to strive for,
I have discovered everything
I could need or ask for
is right here—
in flawed abundance.

We cannot eliminate hunger,
but we can feed each other.
We cannot eliminate loneliness,
but we can hold each other.
We cannot eliminate pain,
but we can live a life
of compassion.

Ultimately,
we are small living things
awakened in the stream,
not gods who carve out rivers.

Like human fish,
we are asked to experience
meaning in the life that moves
through the gill of our heart.

There is nothing to do
and nowhere to go.
Accepting this,
we can do everything
and go anywhere.

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